With just days to go before Steve Jobs takes the stage in San Francisco for his annual Macworld keynote, the Mac universe is abuzz with the usual rumors and speculation.
Regulations governing Apple pundits require that I contribute to the collective cacophony or forfeit my license to blog on Apple.
In that spirit, here's my take on what might be coming - or not - on Tuesday:
Office for the Mac 2008
Craig Eisler, the new general manager of Microsoft's Mac Business Unit, will join Steve onstage to introduce Office for Mac 2008. There will be a tedious demo.
The other week I predicted some major video-related announcements at the Stevenote. We will hear about the new iTunes movie rental service, heretofore unannounced by Apple but widely reported in the mainstream media.
Various news reports over the past few weeks have said Apple is on the verge of making deals with almost all the major film studios, including 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount and Sony, MGM and Lionsgate.
Availability is the major question here; if the deals aren't final, the service may not launch for a few more months.
Going hand-in-hand with the iTunes Store movie rental news should be an announcement of a new, improved version of the Apple TV.
This is not a shoo-in, but it would make a lot of sense for Apple to fix this product by adding the ability to record TV shows (like a TiVo) and access the Internet independently of a computer.
The pi?ce de r?sistance will be integration with the iTunes Store, so that music, videos and movies could be ordered directly from the user's sofa with the included remote control.
Some think Steve will announce a 3G iPhone next Tuesday; my gut feeling is that it's too soon.
Even if he does announce it, you won't be able to buy one for several months.
One thing we will get at some point during the keynote: stats on how many iPhones have been sold, and a recap of the product's launch in the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
Steve might announce the next nation(s) set to get the iPhone (Spain? Italy? Japan?), but I haven't read any rumors that further deals are near.
Steve will definitely mention the software development kit (SDK) that will allow third-party developers to write programs to run on the iPhone.
Although Steve has said the SDK would be available in February, he might wow the crowd by announcing its immediate availability.
You got 'em in September. Let's not be greedy.
One more thing
One product the rumor sites have convinced themselves is coming at Macworld is some sort of Mac subnotebook, something smaller and lighter than a MacBook.
This device could incorporate the same touch-screen technology used in the iPod Touch. It could use flash memory in place of a hard drive, or at the very least use flash memory to speed boot times. It would use an LED display (Apple has committed to using the more environmentally friendly LED technology in all its displays.)
Despite the prevalence of rumors about this, no one is quite sure what such a beast will look like. But the odds are high we will see some incarnation of a MacBook Mini.
For anyone who'd like to follow the keynote live (it starts at 9 a.m. PST, or noon Baltimore time), several Web sites will be posting updates during the event. I prefer Engadget, but a full list of sites offering coverage will appear on MacSurfer the day of the event.
Read Dave Zeiler's Apple blog at www.baltimoresun.com/business/appleaday